Siri Acquisition Brings Apple Much Closer to the 'Knowledge Navigator' Concept
In 1987, Apple produced a concept video demonstrating a future computer called the Knowledge Navigator. The tablet-like device offered the user a natural language interface, video conferencing, multi-touch display and access to a global network of information.
While seemingly the product of an overactive imagination, Apple's recent acquisition of Siri brings Apple a lot closer to that vision than ever before. Siri reportedly was born from the CALO artificial intelligence project which sought to fulfill a call for a "a cognitive computer system should be able to learn from its experience, as well as by being advised."
Apple's value in acquiring Siri appears to be focused on this personal assistance technology. Siri describes their technology:
Virtual Personal Assistants (VPAs) represent the next generation interaction paradigm for the Internet. In today's paradigm, we follow links on search results. With a VPA, we interact by having a conversation. We tell the assistant what we want to do, and it applies multiple services and information sources to help accomplish our task. Like a real assistant, a VPA is personal; it uses information about an individual's preferences and interaction history to help solve specific tasks, and it gets better with experience.
In fact, Siri's Chief Technology Officer Tom Gruber uses Apple's Knowledge Navigator video in his keynote and describes it as a "brilliant piece of vision work":
Gruber demos Siri and how it can accomplish tasks using a conversational interface and apply context to provide useful and personalized interactions. He also walks through what's possible today and how close we are getting. Given Apple's acquisition of the company (and presumably Tom Gruber), the talk is of particular relevance to Apple's future plans.